Losing faith in rear lights; chat about your experiences

Valy
Valy Posts: 1,321
edited January 2014 in Workshop
Out of all the seasons winter time is when it's pretty important to have a good rear light. One that is powerful, durable and most of all reliable! Purpose of this thread is to share my experience and see what other people have come across as well.

I've come across a a few lights which just seem to switch off during a ride - once on a dual carriageway link between two towns :shock: and other in rush hour traffic. As you might imagine not the most confidence inspiring. It was not due to being wet, rather the contacts themselves coming loose - as they were metal strips with some flex in them that held the battery in place rather than a spring. The lights were variations of the Smart 2x0.5W/1x0.5. One stopped working after a long ride in the rain.

That's another thing that is a bit suspect - the sealing on most lights seems to be just for a tick box as they all seem to get water in them which can also stop them from working or worse making them break for good regardless of how many hours they spend in the airing cupboard - Smart R2 and Blackburn Mars 4.0 are two examples. Both cases were without a rear mudguard, but I feel they should be better? I mean what if you are caught out in summer without mudguards and have 2 hours of riding in the dark and wet?

Contrary to the examples above though, I used a Smart R1 (but only with 0.5W I think) for about a year before them and never had any problems. Really liked the light, but it eventually stopped working. I thought a year was as good amount of time and got another Smart light and that's where the dreaded contact and water ingress started making some lights last less than a few months. :/

I can do a fair amount of riding in the dark so a good reliable light is very high on the priority list for me. After the recent string of bad experiences I think the only way to go would be for something more substantial, durable and dependable along the likes of Exposure Blaze Mk1. Don't quite have the money for it right now but once I do, will pretty much have to get one, or rather invest I hope would be a more appropriate term. A Russian saying goes: "we are not rich enough to buy cheap" comes true for me here.

I am well aware from personal experience and other's that "normal" rear lights are very fine indeed for a lot of people and not suggesting there is some inherent flaw with them. Mainly that my string of 3 bad experiences has tested my faith in them. Without much exaggeration I think this is an area where your faith needs to be at similar levels compared to forks not breaking or front tires staying on the rims, in some cases even more so as you might not even be aware that your guardian has taken a few minutes off...

Comments

  • I have had 2 Smart R1 fail this winter, currently using a Lezyne Micro drive. After 4 weeks use 5 days a week I am impressed so far
  • slowbike
    slowbike Posts: 8,498
    I have 3 rear lights on. Can't afford not to have at least one on.
  • Valy
    Valy Posts: 1,321
    Yeah I found that lately SB - have 2 rear lights and only having one feels almost like not having one at all! :P

    The Lezyne lights have caught my eye periodically but I think the USB charging put me off, or more like the combination of that and perceived short run times? Hence gravitating towards a bigger lights like the Blaze Mk1.
  • marcusjb
    marcusjb Posts: 2,412
    Smart rear lights are terrible with dealing with the wet stuff.

    On the audax bike, I have a cat eye 5 led thing that has survived 3 full seasons of year round riding in horrendous conditions and a fibre flare that is now into it's second season.

    I have had smart rear lights fail on me on a couple of bikes. I have one on the shopping bike that, touch wood, is okay.

    Can't fault cateye though to be honest.
  • Valy
    Valy Posts: 1,321
    I've used them as front lights without problems - hold them in good regard. The biggest problem for me with them on the rear is that my legs don't clear the bracket short of mounting it on the seatstays, but even there they are a bit in the way and aren't placed in the best way for visibility. The LD1100 Opticube caught my eye but I've been spoiled by the brightness of the 1 and 0.5w LEDs. It does have a more conventional bracket option which would not make my legs rub the bracket though. A good option to use in tandem with something more bright. Replaceable batteries are a bonus too.
  • Simm0
    Simm0 Posts: 11
    I have tried a lot of rear lights over the last couple of years mainly in the £20-£60 category. Some had design faults right from the beginning and just switched themselves off or changed modes(you know who you are !!!). Others couldn't cope with road vibration and either left the bike or the plastic brackets snapped and a couple did the job for a while but didn't last as long as I thought they should. As I run one on dull days as well I was buying several a year. In the end up after some reading I bought a Dinotte and can highly recommend this light. It is without doubt the best rear light I have ever owned. They are very pricy however I haven't bought another light since. If you ride in the complete dark always have at least 2 rear lights going.
  • JayKosta
    JayKosta Posts: 635
    I made a bracket to hold both the front and rear light, and which attaches to the handlebars and projectes about 8 inches from the bars INTO the driving lane.
    With that setup I could see that the lights were working, and drivers were inclined to give me more room because they didn't want my light to hit their vehicle.

    Jay Kosta
    Endwell NY USA
  • Valy
    Valy Posts: 1,321
    Beats having to always look behind between your legs!
  • Hope District is the light to have, well engineered, very powerful. Only downside is separate battery, but neat enough below top tube -- and upside is very long run time. Use Exposure Flare and Hope District together if you need insurance against failure, but never happened to me in a couple of years.
  • pipipi
    pipipi Posts: 332
    I have a Cateye with two independent rows of LEDs, sorry I can't find the code, but it has LEDs at the ends which I think is meant for side visibility. This also makes it easier to check on the go. I don't have a mudguard and it's been going well for a few years, but possibly not as tested as yours.

    However, I like the idea of the cateye reflex, which looks like a big reflector with a light in the middle. Just not sure how well the light works there!

    But I agree with others that relying on only one light is not the safest way to go. I have some reflective tape on parts of my bike, mostly on the frame (actually covering a few scuffs so I think it looks better but it's a white bike) but some on the bar ends on the drops which should reflect backwards. I also have some spoke reflectors. On the back of my helmet I have a Knog Blinder which gives it some extra height. I also wear some reflective ankle bands. But the biggest reflective is probably my rucksack which is made from reflective material, and I could easily add some lights to that.

    The only reflectors I don't have is the orange ones on my pedals!
  • Giraffoto
    Giraffoto Posts: 2,078
    I've long felt that just one rear light is not enough - you should have at least two. And if you can carry a couple of spare batteries, you can carry a spare light, so I do - the difference in weight between a set of fully charged batteries and a Cateye LD-610 with fully charged batteries in it is negligible. The LD-610 is reliable, water- and mud-proof, uses standard sized batteries, and you can buy a range of different brackets for it for fitting to various parts of the bike. It's also bright and very visible.

    Also, it's not just about lumens. Having once said that you can never have too many rear lights, one of my Christmas presents this year was a Sigma Stereo rear light - apparently very popular in Germany. It's not startlingly bright, but it is very visible. I've not found a UK supplier yet, but I'd happily get another one. If a light is too bright - and not many are so bright that this effect comes into play - they're hard to focus on, so people will find it hard to judge distance to you and your super-bright light.
    Specialized Roubaix Elite 2015
    XM-057 rigid 29er
  • monkimark
    monkimark Posts: 1,795
    For the commuting bike I have 2 rear lights - one with batteries and one usb rechargeable. The battery light lasts ages and the rechargeable light can be charged up at work if it dies on the way in.

    I also have pair of these bar end lights that have and a front light in each unit http://www.planetx.co.uk/i/q/LITACXLUM/ ... ar-led-set

    They're not the greatest lights in the world - the switches seem a little tempremental - but I like the fact that they visually widen the bike and I can see immediately if the back lights go out. I've even used the indicators a couple of times :)
  • owenlars
    owenlars Posts: 719
    marcusjb wrote:

    On the audax bike, I have a cat eye 5 led thing that has survived 3 full seasons of year round riding in horrendous conditions and a fibre flare that is now into it's second season.

    Can't fault cateye though to be honest.

    What he said, this is the light

    http://www.cateye.com/en/products/detail/TL-LD1100/
  • mattv
    mattv Posts: 992
    I have seen a number of Smart rear lights fail due to water ingress. Either the small battery warning led stays on even with new batteries, or the switch fails.
    I use cateye LD600s. Not super bright, but 2 are run in vertical positions you get great side area and battery life. One of mine is 7 years old next month.
  • I use x3 of these. Smart RL-403-R. Cheep and seems to last ages on the battery.

    One mounted on the right drop bar seems means you can see its still working. Anyone riding with a single rear is taking risks in my point of view, as you cant be sure if it's fallen off or the batteries failed.

    “A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two is never sure”
  • keef66
    keef66 Posts: 13,123
    owenlars wrote:
    marcusjb wrote:

    On the audax bike, I have a cat eye 5 led thing that has survived 3 full seasons of year round riding in horrendous conditions and a fibre flare that is now into it's second season.

    Can't fault cateye though to be honest.

    What he said, this is the light

    http://www.cateye.com/en/products/detail/TL-LD1100/

    Another satisfied user of the Cateye Holy Hand Grenade. Now in it's 6th year of use. Never once failed me, despite being bounced down the road a couple of times. Two rows of LEDs which can be independently set to different functions, plus LEDs at the ends for sideways visibility. Seemed expensive at the time, but it's been very good VFM given it's longevity.
  • freebs
    freebs Posts: 199
    I've got a couple of Knog Blinders. They are excellent. Have been running them for a year now with no issues.
  • thistle_
    thistle_ Posts: 7,217
    I have problem with my Cateye light being really difficult to turn off when it gets wet and covered in road crud, but at least it stays on and doesn't die mid ride. Had it for a few years now and pleased with it.

    Previsouly I had a Blackburn Mars 5.0. The first one was almost indestructible and was still going strong after 2 years, until it fell off going around Llandegla forest (I'd ridden up and turned it off while in the forest). I got a replacement and it leaked from day 1 and died totally after about a month.

    Tried a Blackburn Flea and that didn't like getting wet either. One got sent back to CRC and replaced, when the second one failed in the same was I sent it back and got a refund.

    I've got an Exposure micro redeye which is handy as an extra light. It's away from the spray and grit from the tyres so doesn't tend to get wet like a seatpost mounted light.
  • slowbike
    slowbike Posts: 8,498
    Those with leaky lights - two options ...

    1 - vaseline around the seal
    2 - tape around the joint.
  • I have used an Edinburgh Cycles Revolution Vision 5 Led [£6.99] for about 2 years on my regular 7 mile commute in all weathers.Prior to that I had another but the switch gave up after a couple of years.Excellent bright light,lasts for ages in flashing mode and cheap.
    I have more expensive front lights but I have never felt the need to splash out on an expensive rear light.
  • Valy
    Valy Posts: 1,321
    Too bright a light being not too good has crossed my mind I gotta say. The exposure light has different modes with different runtimes suggesting brightness varies too? Will consider the holy grenade :p after above feedback. Just gotta make sure it does not get in the way.

    Have not tried vaseline but electrical tape works wonders for flat joints!
  • RSP Astrum is the best rear light I've used. Powerful (2x 0.5w), waterproof (unlike Smart lights) and good value (£15ish). I swear by them.
  • I got one of these as part of my latest c+ sub

    http://www.wiggle.co.uk/lezyne-zecto-dr ... led-light/

    I would never have chosen it but now I have it I am very pleased with it.

    You can use it as either a rear or front light. It's usually strapped to my seat post as a rear but It means if my 900 lumen front light fails (usually because I've forgotten to charge it) I can switch it to a front light and use it to get me home.

    My Altura night vision jacket has a rear light built into it plus I have a get me home lezyne femto drive light clipped on my topeak saddle pack permanently
  • Valy
    Valy Posts: 1,321
    HB - that's the light I've had a contact come loose and subsequently snapped it off when trying to bend back into place! :O It came as a replacements to the Smart R2 that got damaged by water permanently. Now actually about to send it off for another replacement, though see if I can get a different model if I pay the difference.

    The general theme for two lights for sure! That's where compact frames are really good as you have plenty of room. I've got a Crud MTB mudguard on the back right now and only enough space for one light with the saddlebag in the way. (the saddlebag did have a stripe which could be used for hanging lights but it tore off)
  • pipipi
    pipipi Posts: 332
    Put some reflective stickers on your saddle bag!

    I've always liked the look of the Fibre Flare. I think it's just because it looks like a lightsabre, but reviews said it let water in quite badly. Any experience?
  • Valy
    Valy Posts: 1,321
    Not myself but marcusjb above mentioned it was going good into 2nd season. Maybe he taped it? Personally I like the idea of using electrical tape to give extra sealing for the light's design allows for it.
  • Giraffoto wrote:
    Also, it's not just about lumens. Having once said that you can never have too many rear lights, one of my Christmas presents this year was a Sigma Stereo rear light - apparently very popular in Germany. It's not startlingly bright, but it is very visible. I've not found a UK supplier yet, but I'd happily get another one.

    Have you not tried Tesco Direct? :wink:

    Cheaper from German sites though - Rose or Bike24.